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LONDON — An initiative designed to tackle Britain’s persistent problem with violent knife crimes is being described as racist by critics after the government began placing antiknife messages on fried-chicken boxes nationwide.

Critics of the campaign, announced by Britain’s Home Office on Wednesday, have said it leans into an offensive stereotype about fried-chicken consumers and targets a segment of the population that has been demonized by the knife crime trend.

The campaign will see more than 300,000 chicken boxes with the anticrime message distributed in fast-food restaurants across England and Wales.

According to statistics published by the BBC, there have been 43,516 knife-related crimes from March 2018 through March of this year, and medical workers have reported that wounds are becoming more severe. That marks an 80 percent increase from March 2014.

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The Home Office defended the plan in a statement on Thursday, saying the initiative is targeted at young people ages 10 to 21 years old from all backgrounds.

WASHINGTON POST